Should I worry about these fungi?

Amateur Gardening - - Ask Anne! -

Q Can you please iden­tify these fungi? They are grow­ing be­tween orig­i­nal rail­way sleep­ers used for a raised bed with a thriv­ing acer grow­ing in it. Are they some­thing I need to re­move? Pa­tri­cia Lush (via email)

A With­out an ex­act iden­ti­fi­ca­tion it is dif­fi­cult to be cer­tain whether this is some­thing to worry about or not. How­ever, I can re­as­sure you that this is not honey fun­gus, which is the one to be most wor­ried about.

It is al­most cer­tainly a sapro­phytic fun­gus grow­ing on dead ma­te­rial rather than liv­ing ma­te­rial.

If it is feed­ing on the sleep­ers then it could even­tu­ally be­come a worry, as it will be caus­ing the de­com­po­si­tion of the wood, which will rot away. But given the sleep­ers have been steeped in cre­osote I think this is un­likely to be the case and it is more likely the fun­gus is grow­ing on or­ganic ma­te­rial in what­ever soil/ com­post you have in the raised bed.

For ex­am­ple, this could be bark or wood waste, green waste (found in some mul­ti­pur­pose com­posts), an­i­mal ma­nure or even home-made com­post – any­thing that was once liv­ing ma­te­rial.

Fungi that feed on dead ma­te­rial rarely cause harm to liv­ing ma­te­rial and should not be a prob­lem for any­thing grow­ing in the raised bed. How­ever, as long as the fun­gus has a food source it will prob­a­bly con­tinue to ap­pear ev­ery year un­til it has ex­hausted it.

You could re­move the mush­rooms to pre­vent the fun­gus set­ting spores and there­fore hope­fully pre­vent it spread­ing. It is best to gen­tly tease them out of their space.

How­ever, the main bulk of the fun­gus is ac­tu­ally the part grow­ing in and on the food source – it is much harder to re­move this as it prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to see! I would be in­clined not to be too con­cerned as long as the fun­gus is not grow­ing on the wood, and just to re­move the fruit­ing bod­ies as they ap­pear.

Most fungi thrive in damp and hu­mid con­di­tions. It might be worth max­imis­ing ven­ti­la­tion around your raised beds to de­crease hu­mid­ity lev­els if pos­si­ble, and you could also dig through the com­post to im­prove aer­a­tion.

Im­proved ven­ti­la­tion helps de­ter fun­gal for­ma­tions

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